Friday, August 31, 2012

1208.6095 (Brian D. Storey et al.)

Effects of diffuse layer electrostatic correlations on electrokinetic

Brian D. Storey, Martin Z. Bazant
Classical theory of the electric double layer is based on the fundamental assumption of a dilute solution of point ions. There are a number of situations such as high applied voltages, high concentration of electrolytes, systems with multivalent ions, or solvent-free ionic liquids where the classical theory is often applied but the fundamental assumptions cannot be justified. Perhaps the most basic assumption underlying continuum models in electrokinetics is the mean-field approximation, that the electric field acting on each discrete ion is self-consistently determined by the local mean charge density. This paper considers situations where the mean-field approximation breaks down and electrostatic correlations become important. A fourth-order modified Poisson equation is developed that accounts for electrostatic correlations and captures the essential features in a simple continuum framework. The theory is derived variationally as a gradient approximation for non-local electrostatics, in which the dielectric permittivity becomes a differential operator. The only new parameter is a characteristic length scale for correlated ion pairs. The model is able to capture subtle aspects of more detailed simulations based on Monte Carlo, molecular dynamics, or density functional theory and allows for the straightforward calculation of electrokinetic flows in correlated liquids, for the first time. Departures from classical Helmholtz-Smoluchowski theory are controlled by the dimensionless ratio of the correlation length to the Debye screening length. Charge-density oscillations tend to reduce electro-osmotic flow and streaming current, and over-screening of the surface charge can lead to flow reversal. These effects also help to explain the apparent charge-induced thickening of double layers in induced-charge electrokinetic phenomena.
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